PU or PUR : Polyurethane Floor Coatings Explained

Polyurethane (PU) is a coating applied to floor coverings in order to enhance the appearance, protect the product and make floor maintenance easier and more cost-effective. Polyurethane enhancement in commercial vinyl flooring has become so popular and widely used in recent years, thanks to the easier maintenance and related cost savings it allows, that it is difficult to find ranges that do not incorporate polyurethane.

Typically, there are PU and PUR categories – but recently we have also begun to see an increase in the number of branded surface treatments which claim to be “better than PU or PUR”. The commonly accepted difference between PU and PUR is also being clouded by claiming PUR on ranges of very different qualities and performances.

So what exactly are the facts? What defines PU and what defines PUR? Let me explain:

PU – this is a lighter weight of polyurethane that protects the floor during the construction process and allows for easier post-construction cleaning by giving the floor “a head start” after installation, in essence an initial sacrificial layer. However, PU ranges almost always require a polish/sealer at some time in the future to protect them and keep them looking like new, especially in commercial applications.

PUR – this means the polyurethane has been reinforced by applying a higher-weight, top-quality polyurethane, that has been UV-cured and cross-linked, to the product. The significant difference lies in the fact that a PUR floor should provide a polish/sealer-free maintenance regime for the life of the floor. It is important to note that this is very distinct from the promises made by manufacturers of a “maintenance-free” regime, as there is no such thing as a maintenance-free floor.

PUR coatings = polish/sealer-free, that’s as good as it gets

The most critical aspect and obvious benefit of PUR coatings is that it is polish/sealer-free. If you cannot clearly see a statement that the so-called PUR range you are buying can be maintained without the use of a polish/sealer for the life of the floor, you have to ask if the PUR tag is being applied a little too freely to an under-performing product.

Both PU and PUR treatments should provide a defined cost saving. This may vary from one application to another, but the manufacturer should clearly state in black and white what the maintenance savings are and show exactly how these are calculated. Because PUR ranges are polish-free for life, they will offer customers more maintenance savings than PU ranges which may later require a polish/sealer. However, manufacturers should be able to give you the proven savings figures for their products. If they are unable to back up their cost-saving claims, you are advised to treat them with the suspicion they deserve.

In conclusion, PUR is defined by the benefit that it delivers, i.e. polish/sealer-free maintenance. Be sure to get the specified maintenance procedures from the manufacturer and you will immediately be able to tell if the coating is a genuine PUR, or actually just a PU coating, and whether the investment will be worth your money in the long run.